My First Uber Ride

The internet has been fantastically disruptive.  A quick review of the dominant formats of today versus 30 years ago highlights this:

Music: CDs vs iTunes/streaming
Software: traditional packaged vs online download
References (e.g. Encyclopedia): hardcopy/CD vs online distribution
Retailing: Intermediaries vs Direct to Customers online
Telcos: Voice as primary revenue vs Data as primary revenue
Travel: Travel agencies vs online ticketing

And the latest pending casualty in the internet shake up is taxicabs.  Mobile phones with GPS capacity have given birth to a slew of peer to peer private car hiring services.  By far the largest one is Uber.

Fairness is just one problem

Fairness is just one problem

Most Uber users i have spoken with are enthusiastic about the service.  It is supposedly 44% cheaper than cabs on average.  Drivers who are rated by riders are overwhelmingly courteous.  In urban areas they are as fast as cabs.  No cash changes hands and there is no expectation of a tip.  The drivers get 80% of the fare, which is far higher than what cab drivers get.

But there are a myriad of problems with Uber as well.  For me the most serious is the frat boy attitude of the companies senior management, which seems to think that it is okay to threatening to stalk and harass women reporters and their families.  Uber has been reckless about leaking customer information.  Uber is under investigation for pushing carless drivers into shady sub-prime car loans.  Uber has instituted surge pricing policies which charge hundreds of dollars for short rides.  Uber has failed to protect the privacy of both drivers and passengers with ill results.  Taxi companies are banding together and protesting Uber’s practices which are cutting corners and risking rider safety as well as suing Uber.  New Delhi has banned Uber after one of it’s drivers raped a passenger.  Uber promised to do more background checks (which were apparently absent) in response.

Taxis protest and road block the Uber headquarters

Taxis protest and road block the Uber headquarters

Despite these problems, having terribly under organized myself this morning at 2 AM i downloaded the Uber app and got my first ride.  It was free.

My driver Michael was 62, had a 4.85 star rating from Uber, a very clean car and was lovely company for my relatively short ride.  Michael had tried to retire twice (clearly something he was not very good at, unlike driving) but was going to hike the Appalachian Trail and need to make some extra money.  We chatted for the entire ride about Uber.

He was generally unaware of the few of the above problems that i pointed out.  [I did not know about the longer list until i started researching Uber today].  And he had nothing but good things to say about the company.  He did have quite some stories about drunken customers and hookers getting into his car, because he confused them for his clients.  He gave me the code that allowed me to get the ride for free (the code is “NowYouKnow” and is good for up to $20 rides but only on your first ride).

Will i use Uber again?  Perhaps.  What i am hoping is that real peer to peer services like Sidecar will expand from just San Francisco and be available in more places to provide us with an alternative to the management nightmare which is Uber.

Game of each single point

It was great to see Drew on my recent trip to the West Coast.  He is a networker who is excited about the Point A project and has mad skills.  He also has stories.

One of his stories that i was excited about was his experience of playing Frisbee at Acorn.  An ultimate game he claimed was the best he had ever played.  Not because we are especially good players, tho we can field a respectable team.  It was the way we play.  In his blog he writes:

We didn’t keep score, something I hardly noticed at the time. It wasn’t necessary to keep score because we were all infinite players playing a series of finite games.

It was at the moment of the opening disc thrown that the finite game started. We played for the point at hand. Not for the accumulation of points. Once that point was scored the finite game ended, the winning team got the title of team to most recently score a point then we started play on the next finite game.

Yes we play Frisbee in the snow

Yes we play Frisbee in the snow

We played to keep the game going. If one team kept winning and the other team was getting frustrated we would trade players to even out the skill levels. We would adjust the rules, boundaries on or off, people rotating out, etc. to ensure that the game continued (until sun down, of course).

Each finite game was played to it’s fullest. We played with great seriousness. Even more serious than professionals I would guess. Because no point was worth any more/less than another. We were never so far behind in points that scoring couldn’t keep us from losing or so far ahead that we could go easy on our opponent. We were never playing warm up or pre-season games that “didn’t matter”. We were playing for the point, the only point—at that moment in time—that mattered.

I had not thought of this analysis before, but i found it compelling.  While not universal, anarchist score keeping (aka not keeping score) is common in the communes.  Quite some Volleyball games start and end with scores of 7 to 7.  They are no less fun that ones i played with highly competitive rules and cultures.


3 Increasingly Important Clean Energy Stories

The hardest part of being an activist on almost all issues is that you have to tell people bad news and then you have to get them to feel motivated to do something.  “Nuclear meltdowns are not a 1 in 10 thousand year tsunami problem that are half the world away, they are a 1 in 20 year problem in a state where you might well have relatives” or “If you don’t want your grandchildren to hate you, you need to learn to share” and the like.

So whenever i get a chance to point at good news, i try to do this.  Over the past few weeks, three increasingly important clean energy stories have caught my eye and i want to hype them.

Unstoppable, record breaking

Unstoppable, record breaking

The first hails from Bloomberg and describes wind’s bright future, specifically noting:

  • Wind power costs have dropped 43% in the last 4 years
  • Almost 5% of the US’s electricity comes from wind and it is rapidly increasing its share
  • US natural gas can now be exported, which will increase US prices and thus favor wind solutions
  • Even without the wind tax credit, there are lots of approved projects in the pipeline for years of construction
Can't buck this trend

Can’t buck this trend

The second article from Quartz Magazine about decreasing solar energy costs including:

  • Solar just beat out natural gas and coal solutions in oil rich Dubai
  • Dramatic price decreases around new thin film solar technology will be coming soon
  • Onshore wind energy and energy from natural gas had parity pricing in the US last year.

grid battery

But the most important article is not about wind or solar, it is about batteries.  This article is complex and it takes the form of a tutorial in energy economics.  It includes the following gems:

  • Solar need not be cheaper than gas to get implemented.  It is already cheaper than gas turbines in handling peaking power (times of peak demand)–a time which is a major headache for utility companies
  • Three states are going to buy 6GW of battery storage, about 6 full size reactors worth
  • Grid deployed giant batteries already make sense in natural gas rich and cheap Texas (and California)
  • Retail customer grid defection is coming soon (first in the West, Southwest and mid-Atlantic regions)

So there is good news.  We are still in trouble, but don’t be blinded by it.  And when people tell you that “renewables can’t compete,” try not to laugh.  Politely inform them that they are living in a past which was going to kill us.

The Sad Truth about Dogs in Community

Correction:  It turns out i am completely wrong in this post and advice.  Apparently, after 16 years of having a dog waiting list, Twin Oaks now does not have one.  And off and on has not for the last two years.  The post is still useful for historical purposes, including the explanation at the end as to why he communities limit specifically the number of dogs we have.
Most of the inquiries to Twin Oaks come through the front door of our email.  It takes about an hour a day, every day, to manage the regular incoming threads of communication.  Some messages get to us through side doors, like the community’s Facebook page. I respond to some of these.
We have a dog waiting list at Twin Oaks (and Acorn) that  it can take years to move through.

We have a dog waiting list at Twin Oaks (and Acorn) that it can take years to move through.

Hello there, i am curious about coming to join your community. i visited a few years back when i was 17, and now am 22 and want to revisit the idea. basically i want to work, relax with my dog, and practice my music without any worries, in a very organic and fresh feeling environment. so if you could email me back about a tour for myself and some friends that would be awesome! Probably going to check out your site to try to find something as well. Thank you for a great choice in living! Peace and Much Love to YA!
Twin Oaks Community
Dearest Aaron: You can certainly come guest with your dog, but we currently have a waiting list for dogs, which sadly moves very slowly. So if living with your dog is a requirement, we may not be the right choice for you. I wish it were a different way, and i did not want to lead you astray
Paxus in Santa Cruz
It’s ok, thank you for the feed back.  How long of a waiting list would you say? I can wait six months with this opportunity- but yes my dog, (Mr Marv) is my companion. I would love to tho, with a place like this the wait is acceptable.
Twin Oaks Community
Sadly Aaron, it could easily be years. One of the last people on the dog list waited for 5 years. The problem is the community caps the number of dogs at 4 and there are over 100 people who live at Twin Oaks, many of whom want dogs. The list is slow moving and long.
Ahhh ok, that is understandable thank you tho! Much love
Twin Oaks Community
can i use our dialog in a blog post? It will help others and i want to be able reference it
I would be honored!
permission-based check box
I put this post up very late and should have added more explanation to it.
There are several reasons why dogs specifically are capped at Twin Oaks (and to a lesser extent at Acorn):
1) Packing – groups of dogs greater than 3 or 4 often pack and make noise at night and keep people up.  It is basically impossible to get rid of a dog once it has been accepted (with the exception of them attacking kids, then they can be expelled).  So the communes prefer to keep the number below packing thresholds.
2) Costs – The community pays all costs associated with dogs and cats.  Food and vet bills are the most common, but this is thousands of dollars per year and at Twin Oaks pets are part of the general trade off game which we play in which they are compared with all other things which we want to have.
3) Allergies – While i am not allergic to either cats or dogs, i have seen both communities lose amazing members because we were unable and unwilling to control pet access to public spaces.   Pet lovers like to brush aside this issue, but it is a real problem for people with allergies.
4) Livestock interaction – We often have other livestock which gets attacked by dogs.  Ducks and rabbits have both been attacked and killed at Acorn by dogs since i lived there.  We have been able to successfully train our current dogs, but these considerations play into the limit.

The Farm to Fast Food Connection


We are not interested in simple solutions. The problems we are facing are complex and interlocking, simple fixes can not address this systemic mess. This article links articles links current fast food workers with developing world displaced farmers in making the argument for a living wage.

An argument which seems now to some as preposterous to most as the idea of gay marriage or legal recreational marijuana seemed just a few years back. Dont doubt what is possible.

Originally posted on The Virginia Planner:

Orange McDonalds The McDonald’s in downtown Orange

One of the most dynamic social movements in American society today will be in the spotlight again on April 15, when fast food workers take to the streets to demand a fair wage. The workers want a wage of $15 an hour, which is no pipe dream. Seattle was the first major city to make this the minimum wage, in 2014, and a number of other cities are likely to follow. But in most of the country, the minimum wage is $7.25, and fast food workers generally don’t get paid much more. Some might see the $15 demand as radical, but the movement has put a spotlight on the fact a growing share of all jobs in this country involve selling burgers, fries and soda. If fast food is the kind of job much of the workforce can expect to have, shouldn’t those workers be…

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Polyamory Geometry – Metamours

At least in theory, monogamy is simple.  You have one partner, you are sexually, and perhaps intimately, exclusive with them.  You come up with agreements as to what that means, you defer to this relationship if any other interests should come along.  And you are good to go.


How many have the key to your heart?

Polyamory in contrast is complex.  There are multiple partners with different desires, dreams and ideas.  There need to be agreements about how new partners get added.  You will need to have safe sex discussions.  There are often crowded schedules to be coordinated.   There is also embracing the inherent inequities in poly.  There are hierarchies or configurations or interrelations which need to be negotiated.

piggy back kissing

Fundamentally more complicated

Some of the most poorly charted territories (because they are all quite different from each other) are relationships between metamours (partners of partners).  These are often people who have not chosen directly to be involved, perhaps a strange old friend of your new friend.  But these people can potentially have a significant impact on your life.  If a metamour goes into crisis, you can expect your lover to support them, potentially trashing the carefully laid plans you have.  If a metamour moves to Italy, your lover might want to visit them there, taking them far from you.  If a metamour wins the Nobel prize, your personal life could become much more public than you were thinking it was going to be.

husbands-girlfriend There are of course positive metamour effects as well.  If your partner has selected well (and they did choose you after all) it is possible a metamour can support you when your partner is being hard to understand or acting like a jerk.  If you are lucky, a clever metamour can call your partner out when they are being ill behaved towards you.  And if you are really lucky, metamours can become important intimates in your life.  I first met Shal as my lover’s lover and he has become one of my closest friends, long after the romance that brought us together has faded away.

kitchen table polyThis post was inspired by the above comic, which nicely defines two terms.  Especially for people who are new to polyamory or have partners at significant distance there is often the practice of “parallel poly”, where metamours have very little interaction with each other and may not even have met.

But what most experienced poly people are looking for is what Tikva calls “kitchen table poly.”  The idea that even if you don’t have a direct romantic relationship with your partner’s partner, they are still important to them and thus like family to you.

And these generalizations are exactly that.  You could easily have an experienced pair of metamours who don’t spend time together and operate “in parallel”.  Or you could have a couple or more folks who share lovers who are quick to find each other and become friends or even romantic partners.  One long time lover of mines partner practices HONCing – the Happiness Of Not Connecting.  We have nothing to do with each other and when we are in the same town we avoid each other.

i heart my metamour

bumper sticker available at

Rita Mae Brown said “An army of lovers can not fail.” And while i don’t like military metaphors generally, i get the sentiment here.  If you want to get past your jealousy, one powerful way to do it is to hang out with ruffled hair and a fuzzy bathrobe at the breakfast table with someone who deeply agrees with you about how wonderful your lover is.

For more poly comics go to

Other posts on polyamory and honest seduction:

Making the big labor credits

I live in a world that is slightly inconceivable to most people.  I do a lot of work, almost all of it stuff I am super pleased to do.  And I don’t get paid for it.  Instead the communities I live in (Twin Oaks and Acorn) cover most of the costs of my living: Food, shelter, clothes, education, entertainment, medical insurance, dental insurance, and most of my travel.

solidarity in stars

Instead of getting paid in money, besides the services listed above,  I accrue labor credits.  For each hour I work, I get one labor credit.  My labor obligation is 42 hours a week.  It makes little sense, however, to compare this work quota to most people’s straight jobs.  On the rare cases when I commute (like to a college speaking gig or a craft show) I get “paid” for my time traveling.  I get labor credits for voting and going to the doctor, and some small fraction of the time I spend taking care of my son Willow is labor creditable.  All the time I spend with Willow on home schooling, including the prep is labor creditable.  When I clean our collective dishes, I get labor credits.  If I were to cook for more than 7 people (which I never do) it would be also be creditable.

Working with Tofu

Working with Tofu at Twin Oaks

Some of the stuff I do is hard.  I do mediation between people who are furious with each other.  I work to stop nuclear power plants.  I am trying to start income sharing communities in NYC, where couples committed to each other for life find it easier to not share income.  I help find consensus when there is sharp disagreement.  With some regularity people thank me and appreciate the difficulty of this work.  When I am feeling clever or exhausted by my efforts I say, “That is why I make the big labor credits”, a silly knock off on the phrase “That is why I make the big bucks.”

Silly, because all labor credits are exactly the same size.  One hour is one credit.  It does not matter how hard I work in an hour to the accounting system (though other members certainly appreciate and celebrate anyone’s hard work).  The labor credit I get for an hour of preparing space for a party is the exact same size as the one I get for hour I spend getting a drunk and belligerent guest out of the party.  The labor credit I get for folding mail in the sun while talking with charming visitors is the same size as the one I get for counseling and talking down a manic or suicidal member.

Working in the Gardens

Working in the Gardens at Acorn

I don’t need to get a bigger labor credit for the harder work.  Turns out when my basic needs are met, I am pretty well off.  The communities are poor.  The people who live there have legitimately calculated taxable income below the poverty line (or at least in the case of Twin Oaks–Acorn is higher but still below the national average income).  What this radical sharing we deploy does is to permit us to live like kings (or at least like the upper middle class), while we live in technical poverty.

If you are thinking to yourself “Wait why doesn’t everyone do this?  We could eliminate the awful effects of living in poverty without having to make any more money,” you would be on to something.  Besides stopping climate change, we would be saving millions of lives from the sharp edge of poverty.

What stops us is we don’t trust each other enough to share what we have, almost all of which is sitting idle almost all the time.

Post Script:  I should clarify this thing about traveling, since it has sparked a bunch of questions.  Perhaps half of these trips are paid for by the communities i live in.  These include craft fairs trips with Hawina, college speaking gigs,  hammocks sales trips and almost monthly trips to DC/Baltimore and NYC for the Point A Project, With the possible exception of Ira from Acorn, no one at either Twin Oaks or Acorn travels even close to this much.  And i travel more than this.

I visit my mother at least two or three times a year, often in Florida, and she pays for this travel completely.  I also travel with the Star family (my family of choice) and i pay for this out of money i earn outside of the community.  I am also fortunate to have romantic intimates who pay for me to come and see them in all manner of curious or exotic locations.


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